Punakaiki Coastal Restoration Project

Rio Tinto | Department of Conservation | Conservation Volunteers New Zealand | Lincoln University
THE QUESTION
Taking part in conservation is the fastest growing recreation activity in this country. How might a former pilot mining site be restored into the National Park that it adjoins through volunteer participation?
THE OUTCOME
This project creates a series of staged interventions. It centers around a repurposed Volunteer Center and an on-site nursery, which are constantly being grown to invite more visitors and volunteers to participate in conservation activities. Eleven years on, the restoration plantings are flourishing – by 2020, some 200,000 eco-sourced plants have been planted.

Growing a Wild Place

In this project at Punakaiki, West Coast, a former farm and mining site is being transformed into native rainforest to help preserve and enhance the breeding habitat of the Tāiko Westland Petrel. This forest and coastline area is the only place in the world where they come to breed each year. 

Creating New Experiences

The project offers a new set of National Park–type experiences, where instead of just walking and sightseeing, opportunities for seed-raising, planting, species monitoring, pest – control, citizen science and volunteering are offered. Through these participative experiences, visitors leave a positive mark on the natural environment and take home not only pictures, but also knowledge, skills and ownership.

Staging a Site that Grows Itself

The programmes and subsequent forms set out by design are intended to change and evolve as the forms of wildness that it prompts shift both the physical and the conceptual trajectory of the project over its subsequent stages.

Made By Volunteers for Volunteers

Volunteers come from the local area, and all around the world. Their participation is integral to the site’s [continuing] success; it is the ‘people’ element, and the related stories that permeate their lives that makes this project so special.

Growing a Living Lab

The site offers research opportunities for universities and school groups. Research investigating the potential indicators of ecological restoration success at the PCRP was undertaken over two years (2011-2012) by Lincoln University. Comprehensive floral and faunal inventories and monitoring were used to determine characteristics of forest and disturbed environments at the species and community level, with a focus on the transition of these characteristics during restoration.